by Rona Edwards and Monica Skerbelis|
What exactly is a logline?
A logline is a one or two sentence summary of your story or screenplay. Being able to hone your story down to those few sentences will whet the buyer's appetite to want to hear either the full out pitch or read the full screenplay. You need it for query letters or when making phone calls to production companies, trying to get them to read your material. The person taking your call will most likely ask you what your story is about and you must quickly reduce your screenplay, story or novel to a line or two giving them the general idea. You want to grab their attention quickly, and if they like it, they will ask questions and want to hear more. If you happen to be in an elevator or sitting on an airplane next to a producer, or anyone in the industry for that matter, and have a moment of opportunity to pitch your idea, you will need a brief logline.
A logline is also sometimes referred to as the "premise" or "concept" of your story. A screenplay, novel and play will have a logline. It is similar to a listing in the TV Guide where a television movie or show is reduced to a line or two to pique the audience's interest.
Usually, you begin with a protagonist doing some sort of action with an outcome or a protagonist with a desire and will do anything to achieve that desire. It may also convey the tone of the piece. But above all, it tells the story in succinct way.
a) A high-spirited young nun leaves her convent to care for seven
children, bringing freedom and warmth to their strict household while
unwittingly winning the heart of their cold father. *
b) When a nerdy high school student is bit by a spider, he turns into a web-slinging super hero. With his new defender of evil status, the teen learns that with great power comes great responsibility.*
c) When a man's daughter is murdered, one of his oldest friends is assigned to head up the police investigation, while another of their friends is labeled a suspect. *
d) A pirate pursues his nemesis across the Caribbean seas to regain control of his ship and break an ancient pirate curse with the blood of a beautiful virgin. *
The Los Angeles Times and other newspaper publications publish listings of upcoming and current films in the Sunday papers. This is a great resource to see how films can be reduced to a sentence.
It takes practice to write strong yet concise loglines but if you can get this practice down-pat, you will be on your way to learning how to pitch your ideas. Knowing your logline will help open the door for writers, producers and directors, and is an important asset of storytelling for any filmmaker.
"If you cannot state the gist of a play in three lines, it lacks backbone."
- Frances Marion (1937)
* Answers to the above: a) The Sound of Music; b) Spiderman; c) Mystic River; d) Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
You can contact Rona and Monika via their website: www.esentertainment.net
Rona Edwards and Monika Skerbelis are the co-authors of "I Liked It, Didn't Love It: Screenplay Development From The Inside Out" from Lone Eagle Publishing. They have worked as development execs and producers, and collectively have 25 years worth of experience in Hollywood.
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